Building Hope for Iraq
An American Friends Service Committee PositionPaper on the United States and the International Community’s Obligations to the People of Iraq
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) recognizes the right of nations to self-determination and self-governance and affirms the ability of all peoples to resolve conflicts, even the most serious ones, through nonviolent means. These principles guide our approach to the present crisis, which we see as a crisis of physical survival for Iraqis as well as American and allied troops, a crisis of survival for the Iraqi state, a crisis regarding the durability of the international community and its instruments, and a crisis of faith in U.S. political institutions and leadership.
The Legacy of an Illegal Invasion
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was pre-emptive and illegal, conducted with little support from the international community and justified by the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction, the existence of which has yet to be verified.
The U.S. invasion and a poorly conceived occupation have created danger and chaos in a country already devastated by years of international economic sanctions and a dictatorship that squandered valuable resources on military adventures. Iraq’s government and its institutions have been destroyed and a foreign army cannot and should not fill the void. With each passing week, more Iraqis grow angry and refuse to cooperate with a provisional authority and occupation forces that they view as both illegitimate and ineffective. In this climate, both American troops and Iraqis who cooperate with them become targets of violence. At the same time, peaceful Iraqi citizens legitimately demand healthcare, public safety, education and other basic public services. Such services must be provided by legitimate, independent and competent agencies in a manner that supports and develops Iraqi institutions.
U.S. citizens, as other people around the world, hunger for security, peace and stability. The U.S. government has invaded Iraq and taken other military actions out of desperation to act against those who, in its view, threaten U.S. security. In large measure, such actions have actually undermined U.S. security. The increasing violence in Iraq shows that opposition forces will only grow bolder as resentment against the arbitrary exercise of massive military power increases.
Essential Steps Toward Peace and Security
In the view of the AFSC, the following fundamental goals must guide U.S. and international actions with regard to Iraq:
I. Re-establish Iraqi Self-Government and Sovereignty. As quickly as feasible and prudent, transfer governing authority to an international authority that can assure the development of a government that can gain the support of the Iraqi populace.
II. Strengthen the UN and International Institutions. Sustain and strengthen international mechanisms and institutions for the management of conflict rather than resorting to policies of unilateral, preemptive action.
III. Attain Full Recovery and Reconstruction. To the maximum extent possible, support the ability of Iraqi individuals, organizations, and institutions to undertake and guide their own recovery, reconstruction and economic revival.
IV. Hold the U.S. Accountable to International Standards and Basic Principles of Fairness. Hold the U.S. government and military accountable to recognized international standards for the conduct of war and occupation for both its past and future actions in Iraq and ensure that basic principles of fairness guide future actions there.
V. Recognize Long-Term Implications of the Iraq Invasion for U.S. Foreign and Military Policy. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is illustrative of larger trends in U.S. foreign policy that must be considered and addressed.
I. Re-establish Iraqi Self-Government and Sovereignty
Will Iraq’s future be defined by military occupation and foreign control or by the emergence of viable Iraqi institutions of government and civil society? The answer to this question must be clear: the United Nations, not the United States, should oversee the transition to Iraqi self-governance and the orderly departure of international troops. If the U.S. occupation authorities fail to cede power to a legitimate, international transitional authority, their choice will cast doubt on U.S. intentions and undermine the legitimacy of any emergent Iraqi government.
The interim Iraqi government is encumbered in its role, having been crafted by American decision-making and patronage. Unfortunately, this contributes both to anti-American attitudes and also to instability in Iraq and throughout the region. Greater numbers of troops and continued military occupation will not change this reality. The following steps would start a process to end the U.S. occupation and establish a sovereign and legitimate government in Iraq with control and ownership of the nation’s resources.
A. Allow and support the organization of Iraqi political parties. Rather than forbidding political parties to emerge and organize, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) must allow political parties, including those representing all points of view, to develop and to participate in rebuilding the country’s political infrastructure.
B. Follow internationally recognized procedures to screen former Iraqi civil servants seeking involvement in reconstruction. The CPA policy of removing all former Ba’ath party functionaries has debilitated Iraq’s ability to rebuild. Many civil servants have been removed solely on the basis of party affiliation, rather than through proceedings based on evidence of their complicity in human rights abuses. Such measures have severely weakened government institutions and set a tone of exclusion.
C. Support and engage with new civil society groups in Iraq. New civil society groups are emerging across Iraq. Through these groups, women, youth, labor unions, newspaper reporters, minority groups and others seek to address the many issues facing their country, including security and reconstruction. The presence, voice and activity of UN staff and of the staff of international agencies and nongovernmental organizations greatly contribute to the vitality of Iraqi civil society and should be encouraged.
II. Strengthen the UN and International Institutions
Throughout its history, AFSC has supported the growing capacity of international institutions, such as the United Nations. International bodies provide the potential for developing recognized, legitimate policies and plans of action that promote greater security for all the world’s people.
In recent years, the U.S. has increasingly followed a go-it-alone posture, particularly in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. Commenting on the U.S.’s unilateral actions, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan remarked, “… we have come to a fork in the road. This may be a moment no less decisive than in 1945 itself, when the United Nations was founded.” U.S. actions have undermined hard-won international treaties and agreements. The U.S. has also increasingly rejected the use of international mechanisms for pursuing change and eschewed developing security measures that represent a strong consensus among nations.
The present circumstances in Iraq demand the establishment of a legitimate, international transitional authority and an internationally agreed upon set of steps towards Iraqi self-governance.
A. Entrust the people of Iraq with the exercise of their own sovereignty. The CPA should, without delay, cede to the United Nations authority and responsibility for managing the transition to Iraqi self-rule and the restoration of full Iraqi sovereignty. Other nations and international groupings such as the Arab League, European Union and Islamic Conference are prepared to assist the UN in this effort but will be reluctant to give their support to a transitional process managed by the U.S. through the CPA.
B. Bring Iraq under international/UN mandate for a defined period of time through a new Security Council resolution. Any transitional authority should work under a new UN mandate limited in both time and scope. Elements of this new mandate should define the transitional authority’s role to assist Iraq in the establishment of its government and in its economic reconstruction. The Mandate should also provide a framework for the establishment of an international peacekeeping presence under UN authority enabling a swift reduction in U.S. and United Kingdom troops.
III. Attain Full Recovery and Reconstruction
While it is the right of the Iraqi people to develop a vision for their future, several elements must guide international efforts to support Iraq’s recovery and return to prosperity. It is essential to revive and nurture vigorous civil society organizations and institutions, including those representing the voices of Iraqi women. Relief operations and interim measures must give way to programs promoting economic recovery and full reconstruction. Finally, the crimes of the past must be addressed.
A. Provide continuing U.S. and international funding for reconstruction. Recognizing the devastation wrought by years of economic sanctions and military invasion, the U.S. must make a major financial contribution towards Iraq’s recovery and reconstruction.
B. Guarantee that the U.S. meets its obligations as an occupying power. The Geneva Accords and other international agreements stipulate that an occupying power is responsible for the provision of food, water, electricity, public safety and all municipal services. U.S. failure to provide for basic human needs and to restore safety to the streets of Iraq has only intensified suspicions about U.S. intentions. Further, it is not the role of an occupier to make long-term decisions that fundamentally change the national status quo, such as privatizing national industries and other assets.
C. Ensure primary roles in reconstruction for Iraqi organizations. Privatization and the awarding of massive rebuilding contracts to U.S. firms not only prevent Iraqis from participating in the reconstruction of their country but also impede the recovery of Iraq’s economy. Iraqi contractors and construction firms must be permitted to participate in the physical reconstruction of Iraqi society.
D. Prevent selling of long-term contracts for oil production. The CPA has executive authority over all decisions relating to the control of Iraq’s oil and natural resources and the negotiation of large contracting agreements. These key decisions must be open, temporary and made with Iraq’s best interest in mind. Occupation authorities should not make any plans to “mortgage” the oil of Iraq or change the status of oil production. Such long-term decisions rightfully belong to a legitimate Iraqi government.
E. Bolster the capacity of Iraqis to ensure their safety. Continued policing by U.S. troops has been disastrous on several fronts. Aggressive tactics from armed checkpoints to “security sweeps” have resulted in untold civilian fatalities and contributed to an increasingly hostile environment. Broad open-fire rules have led to extrajudicial killings, with helicopter gun-ships and tanks engaging in excessive, deadly force. Entering homes, destroying and stealing property and mistreating people in front of family members wounds sensibilities and creates deep resentments. Demonstrators have been killed in cities all over the country and family members have been detained in place of those being sought for questioning. The U.S. military authorities must promulgate and enforce clear policies prohibiting these actions, make plans for the transition to reconstituted local police forces and support the emerging systems of neighborhood watches.
F. Support mechanisms to promote truth, justice and reconciliation. A truth and justice process conducted by Iraqis and assisted by people of high international stature and relevant international human rights agencies can document and expose crimes committed by the previous government and Ba’ath party members, while recognizing that not all party members were guilty of such crimes. Such investigations, especially if they also address the human toll of over a decade of economic sanctions, will encourage healing and reconciliation.
IV. Hold the U.S. Accountable to International Standards and Basic Principles of Fairness
By its unilateral action, the U.S. has severely undermined international institutions and confidence. The current go-it-alone posture does not promote long-term U.S. security. Instead, such actions create a climate in which other nations, including long-term allies, align themselves against the U.S. The United States must adhere to well-established standards, including its obligations under the UN Charter and the Geneva Accords.
A. Increase transparency about the occupation. There must be transparency in the occupation. Iraqis must be informed about the powers and intentions of the CPA and assume leadership in establishing a functioning economy and legitimate political order. This requires full communication and coordination with UN agencies and member governments. The CPA must increase the number of consultations with Iraqis and hold such meetings in community settings rather than fortified compounds.
B. Uphold International Standards. U.S. actions, including acts of aggression, are not exempt from international standards. Crimes of aggression were the most serious crimes for which the belligerent powers were held accountable at the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals of World War II. The legacy of sanctions and war must be addressed in this context.
C. Compensate the people of Iraq for their losses. The obligation to pay for war damages has a long history in international law and was further clarified after the first Gulf War when the United Nations Security Council established Iraq’s legal responsibility for damages from its invasion of Kuwait. Security Council Resolution 687 states that "Iraq...is liable under international law for any direct loss, damage, including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources, or injury to foreign governments, nationals and corporations, as a result of Iraq's unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait." The same principles should apply to damage caused by the U.S.’s unsanctioned invasion of Iraq. U.S. contributions toward Iraq’s reconstruction are an obligation, not an act of charity, and should be appropriate to the damage incurred.
V. Recognize Long-Term Implications of the Iraq Invasion for U.S. Foreign and Military Policy
The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq demonstrate several disturbing trends in American policy:
A. Rejecting the counsel of the international community and even of close allies in favor of unilateral action;
B. Relying on a conception of security that depends on massive military might rather than development of strong relationships, problem solving and conflict prevention;
C. Increasing use of military action as the chief instrument of U.S. foreign policy without exhausting the potential for nonmilitary approaches;
D. Favoring short-term action over long-term solutions;
E. Refusing to consider the long-term implications of U.S. preemptive actions for regional stability and their contribution to anti-American sentiments; and
F. Ceding of its foreign policy and military oversight obligations by the U.S. Congress in deference to the Executive regarding issues of war and peace.
AFSC promotes policies and actions that rely strongly on the mechanisms and counsel of the international community. The U.S. government should support the international community in seeking to prevent the eruption of armed conflict, working diligently to attain justice and achieve positive change through nonviolent means. U.S. administrations must resist the temptation to take short-term actions motivated by immediate political horizons. Rather, administrations must, in consultation with Congress and the public, pursue the U.S.’s long-term interests through just and thoughtful means.
We face a world in which old conceptions of power and security no longer obtain. While massive military power may serve to “shock and awe” potential adversaries, those who perceive themselves as powerless—grassroots political movements, liberation forces, and a wide range of groups with both laudatory and reprehensible aims—increasingly employ the tactics of violence and terror to exert influence and to attempt to accomplish the changes they desire. Indeed, some simply operate out of greed and lust for power and have found ways to manipulate populations to gain support. Others, however, seek redress of legitimate grievances and cannot be so easily dismissed, since their legitimate grievances will survive the demise of particular groups and factions. Regrettably, the U.S. government tends to dismiss the underlying motivations of all these groups as unworthy of consideration without differentiating the legitimate from the illegitimate.
AFSC condemns the violent means that many of these groups adopt. But we assert that U.S. and global security can only be attained when the world community accepts the reasonable underlying goals of the poor and powerless and takes concerted action to redress their grievances. The path to true security lies through healthy relationships among peoples, reliance on nonviolent means to achieve change and through the pursuit of justice rather than short-term objectives and interests.
[November 12, 2003]